A soldier from Morpeth has told the story of how he dragged a wounded comrade to safety as they came under enemy fire during an operation in Afghanistan.
Sgt Christopher Browne has been Mentioned in Despatches for his efforts in the war zone 12 months ago.
He and some of the others who were named in the latest Operational Honours and Awards List were invited to Westminster in London and they were addressed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The 34-year-old was part of a Brigade Reconnaissance Force that was supporting an Afghan Special Forces Team carrying out a sweep of an area of land – they were looking for enemy munitions and IED components.
The group came under attack and one of the UK soldiers on the operation, Bombardier Aaron Foyle, was hit.
Sgt Browne followed his training to help his friend and after pulling him through a boggy poppy field by his collar, he then covered him with fire as he was attended to by a medic before a helicopter arrived to collect him.
Recalling the experience, he said: “We were in a dangerous situation because we had to catch up with the other squadrons ahead of us and this involved crossing 100m of open ground with heavy kit as we came under enemy fire.
“I then noticed that Bombardier Foyle had been hit in the groin area.
“There was no to-ing and fro-ing about it. We’re all trained to assess the situation, return fire and get to the soldier as quickly as possible.
“I went to him along with our Captain. Our team’s main role was to communicate accurate and up-to-date information to the ops room at Camp Bastion so it can send assistance if required.
“The Captain then went to find a point to report what was happening and it was my role to move Bombardier Foyle towards a safe point.
“He was injured, but he was making a fair bit of noise, which was a good sign that he was not in a life or death situation.
“I dragged him across the poppy field and kept stopping to put fire down. The wet conditions did not help because the ground was literally a bog.
“I knew the shots were hitting really close, but that’s where the training kicks in and you keep calm and focused.
“When we had covered some of the distance, we were joined by a troop sergeant and a medic. It was then that I could take out my big sharpshooter rifle and provide decent cover so the enemy could not fire first.
“We took Bombardier Foyle to a safe point and our job then was to make the area as secure as possible for the helicopter that was coming to collect him because it is a big target.
“I knew that he was going to be ok when the Chinook took off and that made it easier to carry on with the mission, although I’m sure that in other cases it is hard for soldiers to continue when a comrade has been seriously injured or killed.”
The sergeant has been part of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers for a number of years. Its main base is in Germany and the soldiers are stationed in the Midlands when they are in the UK.
But in May, it will amalgamate with the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the new Regiment, called the Royal Lancers, will be based at Catterick in North Yorkshire.
Sgt Browne said: “I was very proud to represent the 9th/12th Royal Lancers at Westminster, although it was awkward to be singled out for doing something that every other soldier would have done.
“As I have a house in Blyth, I’m looking forward to moving to Catterick in two months.”